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JaKarr Sampson deserves a real shot

Sampson is as deserving of playing time and opportunity as any of Sacramento’s youth.

Kimani Okearah

The Sacramento Kings committed to a full rebuild entering this season, and have an abundance of young talent as a result. We knew entering this season that head coach Dave Joerger would have a difficult time finding minutes to give everyone opportunity, and we’ve certainly seen that already this year. This season is really about finding out what the Kings have. Which young guys are part of the future, and which guys might be expendable. But along the way, injuries and match-ups gave JaKarr Sampson a shot. Sampson made the most of his opportunity, showing himself to be a plus defender, tenacious rebounder, and a low-usage wing/big who can score opportunistically. So it’s a bit disheartening to see Dave Joerger sum up JaKarr Sampson the way he did after Sunday’s loss to the Toronto Raptors.

There are valid reasons to say JaKarr Sampson won’t be in the rotation going forward. For example, there are limitations to two-way contracts like Sampson’s. Two-way players can spend no more than 45 days with their NBA team, the rest of their contract must be spent in the G League.

So I can’t help but bristle when Joerger say JaKarr would be taking minutes from young guys. Sampson is 24 years old, the same age and with the same years of NBA experience as Willie Cauley-Stein. He’s much younger than guys like Zach Randolph, Garrett Temple, and George Hill, each of whom is currently playing around 25 minutes per game.

Randolph has been good, Temple is a good player, and Hill is still productive despite his disappointing production thus far. This isn’t me saying that those guys shouldn’t be getting minutes. But you can’t use the “taking minutes from guys we want to develop” excuse when you’re ignoring that concern with other productive players. What’s the point of this season if we ignore a potential 24-year-old gem the team uncovered?

There’s an easy solution here. The Kings will hopefully find some trade partners between now and the trade deadline and free up some minutes. Kosta Koufos has been a likely trade candidate for a while now. If he gets traded in a deal that opens a roster spot, the Kings could sign Sampson to the main roster.

In the meantime, I hope the organization will continue to utilize JaKarr and not relegate him to the G League until another injury. He’s shown he deserves the minutes, and I’d really love to see how he works next to Willie.